The Golden Rule

Matthew 7:12

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” {NLT}

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” {NASB}

An older gentleman had a stroke and since his wife has already passed away, there was no one to care for him except a son. The son moved his dad into his home. They fixed him a room and he shared meals at the table with the family. Unfortunately the man could not eat with out slobbering which was very gross and bothersome to the man and his wife and their two teenagers daughters. The only one who did not complain was a their boy who was eleven. After discussing the problem, the man and woman decide to make pop eat in his room. This way no one had to watch him eat. It was easier to clean up the mess around his wheel chair that to see him slobber and drop food back into his plate. grandpa had a hard time handling the utensils and he was bad to drop plates and bowls. There solution was wooden bowls. So grandpa ended up eating by himself out of a wooden bowl. It just so happened that Dad had a wood working shop in back and one day he caught his son using the lathe. “What are you doing?” The dad asked. The son said, “I’m making bowls for you and mom so you will have them when you get old.”

The Golden Rule has both a positive and negative connotation.  First, we should not treat a person in a way that we would not want to be treated. Secondly, we should treat people or do for others what we would appreciate if someone were to do the same for us. When dad saw his son making him a wooden bowl, he realized that he had not treated his father in a respectful manner. He knew that he didn’t want to be treated the way he had been treating his father. The Contemporary English version translated the Golden Rule “Treat others as you want to be treated.”

The Question

The question is: How do you want to be treated?

  1. Do you want to be loved and accepted?
  2. Do you want to be honored and respected?
  3. Do you want to be appreciated?
  4. Do you want people to treat you fairly?
  5. Do you want people to be honest with you?
  6. Do you want people to be understanding and compassionate toward you?
  7. Do you want people to be kind to you?
  8. Do you want people to share with you?
  9. Do you want to be made fun of or mocked?
  10. Do you want people to speak to you and be friendly?

Here is the game plan. You can take the list above or your own list and for everything that you want others to do for you…you begin doing those things for them. In other words, if you want love and acceptance, start loving and accepting others. If you want to be honored and respected, begin honoring and respecting others. If you want to be treated fairly, begin treating others fairly. If you want people to be kind to you, start being kind to them.

Let’s say there is a person at work or school is unkind to you. Although they are not treating you the way you want to be treated, start treating them the way you want them to treat you. The Golden Rule is both positive and pro-active. If you make this rule the rule of your life, you will reap a good harvest. Martin Luther believed the Golden Rule was woven into the fabric of the universe, a kind of natural law. It is like the law of the harvest: “We reap what we sow. If we sow kindness and love, we will reap kindness and love.”

It is a rule, a spiritual principle but it is not magic. There is always the possibility that some may not return our kindness. Jesus did not die of old age. He was crucified by some unkind people. What they did to HIM, He would have never done to them. We may run into some hard cases and there are no guarantees but generally speaking, kindness will break down most hostilities. When Jacob returned home from Haran he was very concerned about Esau mental attitude. Esau was a “Bubba” and a big one. He was rough and rugged…very good with bows and in brawls. He was a fighter and he had an army of 400 that traveled with him. Jacob was scared to death when he heard that Esau and the 400 were on their way to met him. Immediately, Jacob sent out envoys with gifts. Every few hours, Esau was getting gifts from Jacob. Jacob was a smart man: he was using kindness and generosity to soften Esau. What if Jacob had sent a threat instead of a gift? Jacob applied the Golden Rule and it worked.

Kill Them With Kindness

When I was in Seminary, I pastor a small church in East New Orleans. One of my first converts was a middle-aged woman who had two grown children and one grandchild. She lived with her husband in a trailer park not for from the little church. I have never seen Jesus make a more radical change in a person than he did Wanda. She was radiant and excited about her new life in Christ. Her husband was not excited. He would have preferred that she never attended the church and he would have been fine with her quitting all together. He was a big man, rough and gruff, kind of like Esau. Wanda was so excited about her faith and so appreciative of me coming to her trailer park and sharing the gospel that she wanted to adopt us. She would ask us to go home with her every Sunday for dinner. June and I were 400 miles away from home and had no family in New Orleans and so we quickly made Wanda our Seminary mother. Her husband Grady was not thrilled to see us for Sunday Dinner but Wanda insisted. She waited on Grady hand and foot and he never had a kind word for her let alone a “thank you very much.” I was amazed, she would just smile and go right on. The more unkind he was to her, the more she showed toward him. He took her a while but her kindness broke him down. He was a big teddy bear. Not only did he want us to come to Sunday dinner, he invited us back for Monday night football. It even got to the point that he would give us money just like we were one of his children.

JESUS Wants Us to Be Pro-Active

Thomas Hobbes, the 16-17 century English Philosopher believed that all men are moved by the restless desire for power. In his opinion, this is what makes human bitter competitors even to the point of endangering the lives of others. He believed that everyman, in his pursuit of power, has the right to take anything he can, even the life of another. But says Hobbes–We stay within the context of the law because we fear the consequences. If we take a life, someone might take our life in retaliation. Thus there is this unwritten law, the basic social agreement that if…”I don’t harm my fellow man, he will not harm me.” It is a negative view of the golden rule. I mind my business and you mind yours. You don’t bother me and I will not bother you. You leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone.

You would be surprised at how many people live by the silver rule [you leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone] but that is not what Jesus had in mind. There may be some truth to what Hobbes said but the greater truth is that Jesus transforms our fallen natures. Hobbes was judging the human race by the action of Cain. Jesus has the power to change us. He changes our heart. He gives us a new modus operandi.


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